Facebook & Open Graph API

Facebook and founder Zuckerberg are moving in big time to make our world wide web a more social, more 'like' friendly ecosphere. The Open Graph concept, at the moment, is about aggregating what people see, read, review, interact with and recommend. This way, people like you and me, would better connect – not just with what brands are saying about themselves and our reacting to them, but also amongst each of us, and sharing that opinion. It's Yelp all over, in a way.

It's connected via umbilical cord to Facebook's new “Like” button. FB's "Like" icon (or button) is a plug in. It let's us comment on what we see, experience in form of any kind of web content and put a positive spin on it via the "thumbs up' or Like icon. For FB related developing, the code is provided for developers to drop into their head tags. Bingo, the functionality is auto-added.
Zuckerberg claims that 1 billion “Like” buttons will be clicked on within 24 hours of launch.

Facebook's “Like” button is really an experience enhancer – one that brings a feeling of true interactivity to the world of customer vis-a-vis brand/product. Simple Facebook actions like 'add' or 'join' (as in a fan club) becoes a lot more social and has a lot more impact and reach – including leaving an impression on that brand's page or website. Not sure where that would leave the Facebook Connect concept, because 'Like' has quite a wide ranging footfall across both brand and social ecosphere.

Facebook in a release said:
You’ll begin seeing “Like,” or in some cases “Recommend,” buttons appearing on popular websites spanning a variety of industries, including NYTimes.com, IMDb, CNN.com, TIME.com, LIFE.com, Fandango, NHL.com, USA Networks, Levis.com, Univision and ABC.com.

For example, if I like a pair of jeans on Levis.com, my action will be shared with my friends on Facebook, where they can comment on it. I can also see which of my friends like the jeans on Levis.com.

Advertising vs Engagement

You’ve heard it in seminars. Your board meetings sometimes veer off from talking about P&L and major corporate issues to focusing on digital. Your one tech junkie in the corner, the resident geek pops his head in and rants about ‘digital future’. Yes you kind of know about this. You acknowledge it. Yes, you recognize the writing on the facebook wall. Consumers are shifting their media consumption patterns in favour of the online world. Yes, in this part of the world. A little bit at a time. But yes.

But the reality is we’re mostly stuck in the traditional advertising vortex. Even online. We’re still so taken with creating ‘advertising’ that we forget that the dynamics have been shifted. The consumer has moved the goalposts from receiving one-way communications to interaction and engagement. They want to be part of the action, the give and take. And if you aren’t giving them relevance, experience, and a genuine value-add for their time spent with you, they aren’t taking the bait.

What we tend to forget is the fact that consumers have always been unpredictably outside thin slice channel silos. Our game has always been about value. Value in exchange for time. The digital marketing trick is about creating value – rich experiences, rewarding content, engaging, useful things delivered to them – where they want it, and when they want it. At their whim. At their convenience. Look at all the digital things we do every day – email, sms, phone calls, downloads, blogs, information gathering, googling – each one delivers something useful, something valuable. This is the core remote flick fighter. This is the new model. If you build this, they will come.

Engagement vs Advertising in digital code is Pull vs Push. Theirs vs Ours. The traditional online model (I know those two words together sound like oxymorons) is about awareness building. I have a new product, and here’s a ten page microsite that glorifies it, while also telling me about my vision, my mission, my CEO’s bio, and of course my ‘contact us’ details. And I have spent a considerable sum of my (miniscule) online budget on banners across various portals that I believe you go to, to drive you to my said microsite, and you better click through, or else. And, wait, since I am so 2010 ready that I have also put my microsite address on my print ads. Well, well.

No, because that just does not work. Well, it did nicely enough for a while, but it no longer cuts the ice. Today, it’s about building something that is interesting, something the consumer will gladly spend time with, and if done right probably even advocate. I’m not saying this is the death knell of all display advertising. Some display ads have a simple message ‘free upgrade’ , ‘5% interest’ and ‘$99 to London’ will get clicked through if it is in a relevant channel. But overall, our online communications needs to be way, way beyond advertising. It needs to be fresh, fun, fabulous as an experience.

What we tend to forget often that we are in the wow business. All of us. Offline maintsream creatives, suits, brand managers, CEOs et al. Brand-to-consumer communications is all about wow. We have a wow gadget, an unbelievably comfortable sofa, a juice so fresh it’s still on the tree, a free-lobotomy-with-nose-job offer, and for the CFO – yes, we’ve made a small but remarkable profit in the middle of a bust year kind of wow. So, the, how come when we tell people about all this, we forget the wow?

The magic of digital is the technology it sits on. Ever changing, ever evolving technology. The tech spine allows us to build a nice sexy body around it if we want. Use it cleverly and it can be rewarding – for both brands and consumers. Technology and the newness of it, the fresh wow bits it can deliver allows us to better entertain, better engage, better wow. Like the way Mini used augmented reality applications in their print ads – that led to quite a wow experience for the consumer (www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTYeuo6pIjY). And it doesn’t all have to be all tomorrow’s leading edge today. It can be simple like the first attempt by intel to engage the end-user in a fun way with their Five Note Symphony engagement idea (http://symphony.intel.com/).

Which brings us to my final point. We the guilty – the advertising fraternity – have so long ignored what the consumer wants to see, hear, feel, do and chased the Cannnes and other metalware glory , that we’ve lost sight of the consumer as creative possibility. Lo and behold the new creative director – the 19 year old YouTube upload kingpin out of Muscat. Guitar hero, garage band expert, iMovie editor and brand ambassador par excellence on YouTube. And, he is willing to work for you on a pro bono basis. And no, your brand does not have to be green or preach tree hugging, but just open. Meet John Doe or Salma the blogger or Sultan the facebook fiend – the social media sneezer. The one with self empowerment to make or break your brand. And he is a no-label free spirit who does not believe in advertising. But ask him to be part of your engagement plan, and he will happily take up your flag. The engager. The non advertiser. Your new ambassador. The new piper at the gates of dawn.

The Webisode: Here to stay?

A webisode is a short episode which airs initially as Internet television, either as a download or streamed content – as opposed to first airing on tv.

The format can be used as a preview, a promotion, as part of a collection of shorts, or a commercial. A webisode is usually part of an existing drama or series or it may consist of entirely original material. A lot of webisodes are now being produced as original 'made-directly-for-online' content.

A webisode is simply a web episode – collectively it is part of a web series, a form of new medium called web television that characteristically features a dramatic, serial storyline, where the primary method of viewership is streaming online over the Internet.

While there is no set standard for length, most webisodes are relatively short, ranging from 1–10 minutes in length. With the increasing popularity of online media consumption in the region, the demand for creating short duration video content for distribution via web is becoming prevalent. For well established periods in the calendar which are known in the region for media consumption on a daily basis – such as Ramadan, when the serial TV episode format is hugely popular, webisodes delivered across online will also become a commonly accepted format. Interestingly, webisodes are also available in a more compressed format, even further optimized – for mobile – and these are known as mobisodes.

Webisodes are also becoming a popular format for branded content – where either a brand's product is 'indirectly' placed in some form of drama or continuing story, or in a direct brand driven game or user-selected ending format are also becoming popular as new 'channels' or brand marketing opportunities.

Consumer centric advertising

For ad agencies like ourselves who work closely with multinational, regional and local brands, understanding 'consumer centric' is key. It's not a whole new mantra at all, it's always been around, but developing, engaging in 'consumer centric' brand communications is becoming a must have these days.

It's really about taking consumer insights and ensuring that brands can act on them, deliver their communications and their products and services to focus on those insights. It's about taking a long hard look at consumer behavior, needs, aspirations, time spend patterns, purchase behavior, social media engagement and comments – and then investing, changing, remodeling both organization and output (products!) to suit the consumer. The mistakes marketers make is to polish off the last mile – the product – to suit the customer, but at the core of the organization, at management, at R&D, at customer service levels, nothing changes. Consumer centric ideally means adapting to the lifestyle, attitudunal and behavioral patterns of the target consumer in all contexts.

As agencies, we've always relied on consumer insights. That's what account planning has been all about. And, today, more and more emphasis is being placed on taking those insights and combining them with traditional segmentation (demographics) and taking them a step further. Such insights not only help us in helping brands improve their end products but also help us in developing and crafting effective, resonating communications.

At the end of the day, it's all about engaging in dialog with the consumer and listening. And then taking those insights, those consumer voices and sharing them at all levels.